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A 'Wok' on the Wild Side Hot

wok_racingWok Racing is a relatively new winter sport in which athletes propel themselves at speeds up to 56 mph down treacherous bobsled tracks (a la luge), with a Chinese cooking wok serving as their sliding instrument. The only modification of the wok for Wok Racing is reinforcing the bottom with epoxy for more strength and less friction. The human proclivity for adrenaline and creating new methods of experiencing the rush knows no bounds.

In the four-man version of the sport, racers employ a coupling to conjoin four woks as they slide in unison down and around the icy course. Speeds there can reach 75 mph.

The sport was inspired by a 2003 episode of the German reality show when celebrity host Stefan Raab incorrectly guessed that a contestant could make it down a skeleton track on a wok. To right his wrong guess, Raab was forced to try his hand at sliding on a wok, and while doing so, realized the new sport possessed merit.

Raab then sponsored and broadcasted the first official Wok World Championship in November 2003. The initial success of the first competition led to a second World Championship held in March 2004 in the Olympic city of Innsbruck. The event has been held in every year since.

Each individual or team travels down the track twice, with both times added and the lowest time determining the winner.

These competitions attract low-level celebrity competitors and athletes alike. Former competitors include the legendary Jamaican Bobsled Team and Olympic Lugers, Felix Loch and Georg Hackl of Germany.

A three-time Olympic champion, Hackl is the most decorated luger in the sport’s history. Not surprisingly then, Hackl holds the most Wok World Championships with six individual titles. He also holds another distinction: recording the fast Wok Racing speed ever – clocking in at 91.7 kmh at the Innsbruck sliding tract in 2007.

Hackl, and other high profile international athletes’ biggest contribution to Wok Racing might be increased visibility, leaving Raab wanting the sport to be included at the Olympics someday.

Raab’s own four-man team, which includes Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Lange, is the two-time defending champion in the event after winning the competition in both 2009 and 2010. This past year, Team Raab knocked off a team consisting of four Olympians.

What originally started off as a joke attracted 6,000 spectators and 3.6 million German viewers in 2010, while scalpers charged two-to-three times the original ticket price.

Though Germany serves as the epicenter of this new phenomenon, all signs point to the sport’s popularity growing at increased speed.

 

Ryan O'Leary

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